If staying in a standard hotel along a standard Orlando strip mall sounds so, well, standard, then consider alternative accommodations that go beyond the usual lodging fare. Here are some options, ranging from a chalet with an on-site soup cannery to camping with chipmunks:
B&Bs and Inns
The Perri House B&B (10417 Vista Oaks Ct., Lake Buena Vista, 800-780-4830, www.perrihouse.com), just three miles from Disney, sits on two acres of grassy fields and oak trees sheltering wild critters and native and migratory birds. The inn's eight rooms have private entrances and baths, and the 24-hour kitchen, library, pool and gazebo-covered hot tub are open to all. Rates from $99 a night, including expanded continental breakfast; for large groups (up to 24), the house can be rented for $675 a night.
The Wonderland Inn (3601 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Kissimmee, 877-847-2477, www.wonderlandinn.com) is a 50-year-old brick B&B enclosed by gardens and orange groves, with a croquet lawn and weekend cheese and wine for post-park relaxation. Each of the 10 rooms has a floral mural, and the rooms' names sound like chapters from "Snow White": Blue Jay, Garden Sprite, Wishing Well. Kitchens available in the suites and cottage; rates from $79 to $159.
It's like a small world at Chalet Suzanne (3800 Chalet Suzanne Lane, Lake Wales, 800-433-6011, www.chaletsuzanne.com), which besides 30 rooms also has a wine dungeon, the Swiss Room, a ceramic studio and a soup cannery, open for tours and purchases of its signature soups (one was even eaten on the moon). A gourmet dining room serves multi-course meals, and guests can cool off at the pool or on the private Lake Suzanne—or jet off on the airstrip. Rates: $169 to $229, with breakfast. About an hour south of Disney.
For other B&B options, check Bed&Breakfast Inns Online (www.bbonline.com/fl/orlando.html), which lists 12 properties (including Perri House) in and around Orlando.
Camping and RV Sites
At Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground (407-824-2900, www.disneyworld.com), in the Magic Kingdom area, you can pitch a tent or hook up an RV at one of 784 sites. Campsites from $38.
A number of campgrounds are also outside Disney's borders, including the Tropical Palms FunResort (2650 Holiday Trail, Kissimmee, 800-647-2567, www.tropicalpalmsrv.com), which has 500 tent ($24) and RV sites ($29-$50) and 144 full-service cottages ($59-$139), and Orlando SE KOA (12345 Narcoossee Rd., Orlando, 800-562-3969, www.koa.com/where/FL/09322/index.htm; $25-$51), with space for tents and RVs, plus one-room Kamping Kabins on 355 lakeside acres. For additional campgrounds, see Camp Florida (www.floridacamping.com), or for RV parks, www.rvonthego.com.
Make Disney your home in a rental villa. Westgate Vacation Villas (2700 Old Lake Wilson Rd., Kissimmee, 888-808-7410, www.wgvacationvillas.com), for one, has 1,200 luxury units ranging from efficiencies to four-bedrooms. Like any self-sufficient community, there are myriad amenities (13 pools, deli, miniature golf, etc.) and activities (fishing, line dancing, cross-country skiing?!?). Prices: $89-$279 a night.
A number of companies also rent homes, condos and the like. Florida Spirit Vacation Homes (866-357-7474, www.fsvh.com) has three-, four- and five-bedroom houses with private pools. Example: A four-bedroom/ three-bath with waterfalls and less than 10 miles from Disney starts at $1,015 per week or $145 per night. For other rental companies, the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau lists a number of agencies on its Web site, www.orlandoinfo.com/other/ovc.
For more natural surroundings (i.e., 554 lakes, birding trails, hiking, etc.), Polk County is just west of the theme parks and is rife with lodging options, from 5,000 vacation rentals to a Lake Wales B&B filled with Noah's Ark collectibles. (Chalet Suzanne, listed above, is in Polk County.) Davenport and Haines City are the closest to Disney, but all of the towns are an easy-enough commute to the attractions. Info: Polk County Visitors and Convention Bureau, 800-828-7655, www.sunsational.org.